Home is Where Your Story Begins

May 7, 2011

Moms Come in All Shapes and Sizes

Filed under: Life,Parenting — my3daughters @ 9:36 am

“An excellent woman, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels”  Proverbs 31:10

Moms come in all shapes and sizes—tall, short, thin, pleasingly plump.  They have every color of hair, eyes and skin under the sun.  There are rich Moms and poor Moms, Moms from every religion and some who do not practice a religion.  Some Moms are good Moms, some aren’t.  But I don’t want to focus on the negative on such a beautiful day so I’m just going to talk about good Moms.  It is my prayer that every child has at least one of the following types of Moms in his/her life.

SAHM (Stay-at-Home Mom):  Yes folks, she works, she just doesn’t work outside the home.  Taking care of a family is a full-time job.  It’s 24/7.  And in my opinion, it’s the most important job in the world, bar none (sorry Mr President).

Working Mom:  Yes, yes, I know, every Mom is working Mom (didn’t I just say that?).  In this instance I am talking about Moms who earn an income (since Professional Parent is only an occupation in JD Robb books so far).  This type of Mom may work because she wants to or because she has to.  No matter what the reason, she still finds time to be with her children, sacrificing personal time or sleep (or both) to ensure that they aren’t neglected.

Single Parent Moms:  For whatever reason—death, dismemberment, divorce, distance, disinterest—Dad just isn’t in the picture.  This Mom has to know it all and do it all.  She has to cook, clean, do the laundry, cut the grass, fix the leaky faucet, help with the school project  . . . the list goes on and on.  I suggest that if you know a Single Parent Mom, you do what you can to help ease her load.

Military Spouse Moms:  A lot of times Military Spouse Moms are also Single Parent Moms because Dad is off protecting our country.  Not only is she doing it all, she’s doing it all while missing a part of her heart, while worrying about her husband’s safety.

Military Moms:   Military Moms fall into one of two subcategories, Blue Star Moms and Gold Star Moms.  A Blue Star Mom has a son or daughter (and sometimes more than one) serving in our military.  A Gold Star Mom has made the ultimate sacrifice.  Her son or daughter (and sometimes more than one) gave their life to protect our country.  To the Gold Star Moms I say “Thank you for your sacrifice.  My heart aches with you for your loss.”  It is my hope and prayer that the Blue Star Moms will never have to change that Blue Star flag in their window to a Gold Star flag.

Step-Moms:  This group of Moms has gotten a lot of bad press in the past.  However, there are good Step-Moms out there, really.  These women put the needs of the children before their own needs.  They don’t try to replace their step-children’s Mom.  Instead they are an extra maternal presence.  If you are blessed enough to have one of these types of Step-Moms for your children, make sure you thank her often.

Mom-in-Laws:  This is another group that has gotten a lot of bad press.  Not all MILs are bad.  I myself have a wonderful MIL, actually an ex-MIL.  I want to be just like her when I grow up.  Donna Buffa is a warm and caring Mom.   I know I can count on her to be there for me even though I divorced her son 20 years ago.  I love you, Mum.  Thank you for everything.

Birth Moms:  Your Birth Mom is the woman who carried you in her body, under her heart for nine months (give or take).  This is the woman who gave your life.  This also gives her the right to say, “I brought you into this world and I can take you out.”  (not that she ever would, but she has the right to say it)  Some Birth Moms, for whatever reason, give their child up for adoption.  I have a Birth Mom out there somewhere.  If by some strange chance you are reading this, thank you for giving me life.

Adoptive Moms:  If you are lucky, when your Birth Mom gives you up for adoption, you get an Adoptive Mom.  With Adoptive Moms, you never have to worry about having been a “mistake” because you were chosen.  My Mom, Phyllis Lindey Hickey, took me into her heart and life as a newborn baby.  She loved me until the day she died.  Twelve years later I can still feel her presence and her influence in my life.  Thanks, Mom.  You may not have given me life but you gave me a life.  I love you and miss you.

Moms of the Heart:  Another term for this would be Second Mom.  This is usually a female relative, family friend or neighbor that you form a close bond with.  My Mom of the Heart is my Mom’s sister, my Aunty, Olive Lindey Cope.  She passed away a year and a half ago.  I still want to call her just to talk.  Unfortunately, Verizon doesn’t include heaven in their coverage area.

Foster Moms: This has to be the toughest kind of Mom to be.  These children come into your home, you open your heart to them, loving them even as a part of you knows that they may not be around for long.  The other women I’ve mentioned by name are my Moms.  I have a dear friend who is a Foster Mom, Sharon Nifong of David’s House Ministries.  Please keep Sharon in your prayers as she opens her heart to the children God sends her way.

Band Moms:  Okay, so maybe this should be Choir Moms or Friend’s Moms but I’m a Band Mom so I’m calling it Band Moms.  This is the Mom you know from Band (or Choir or your friend’s house).  She cares about you, will listen to you, encourage you, yell at you when you get out of line.  Thanks to all the Band Kids, past and present, who have allowed me into their lives.  I love you all bunches and bunches.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms I know.  May you be blessed and appreciated, not only on Mother’s Day but every day.

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April 20, 2011

NO!

Filed under: Life,Parenting — my3daughters @ 10:34 am

“No!”  It’s one of the first words a young child says.  It’s cute for the first two or three times then it quickly becomes annoying.  So we as parents say, “don’t you tell me that!” and break our children of what we consider a “bad habit”.  I agree that the disrespectful and stubborn “No!” of most toddlers should not be encouraged.  However, I think a lot of adults need to re-learn the word “No.”

Have you ever heard the saying “stop me before I volunteer again”?  It applies to people who don’t know how to say “No.”  They volunteer to be room parents, join the PTO, help with the bake sale, coach the team, lead the troop, provide the snacks—the list goes on and on.  ”But I’m doing it for my child,” they say.  To which I reply, “Really, and how does it benefit your child when you are too busy, too tired or too stressed to spend time with them? When you are feeling overwhelmed and frustrated and taking it out on them? When you are rundown because you can’t even find the time to eat properly or get enough sleep?”

Now, before you get mad at me for pointing fingers, know that I speak from experience.  There was a time when I didn’t know how to say “No” and my family suffered from it.  Fortunately someone wiser than me taught me to slow down before I ended up crashing.  Now I schedule downtime into my calendar every day, week and month.  I’m not suggesting you ignore your children.  That’s not healthy either.  I’m telling you that they will survive if you let someone else handle the bake sale.  Actually, they will thrive because they will have a less stressed out parent.  And you will be teaching them the value of a life that is a balance of work and play.

Not only do we need to tell others “No”, we need to tell our children “No.”  They may think they need every new toy and gadget on the market but they don’t.  I’ve had to tell my girls “No” a lot.  Amazingly, they are still alive.  I suggest giving your children an allowance instead.  Sit down with them, discuss what they will be required to spend their own money on and then help them budget.  If they really want something, help them develop a plan to save up the money.   Not only will this teach them a valuable lesson but it will remove stress from your life as well.  I know people who work two jobs just so their little prince or princess can have everything their heart desires.  Sure, everything but a relaxed and stress free parent who actually has time to spend with them.

Again, I speak from experience.  I was the only child of older parents, both of whom worked outside the home and had good incomes.  I was given everything and anything I wanted.  Imagine my shock when I had to start paying for things on my own.  It was very hard to go from having a new car, designer clothes, and the ability to eat out whenever I wanted, to driving an old car, shopping at a thrift store and considering a trip to McDonalds a major treat.  My parents thought they were being good parents, but in the long run it would have been better if they would have said “No” once in a while.  I am thankful that, while they indulged my every whim, they modeled a thrifty lifestyle.  I am able to look back now and put those lessons into practice.  Trust me; life is a lot better now than when I just had to have everything.

Not only do we need to tell our kids “No” when it comes to things that cost money, we need to tell them “No” when it comes to how they spend their time.  “No” you can’t watch TV while you do your homework.  Concentrate on your homework and get it finished so you can watch TV later.  What, do you really think their employers are going to let them have a TV in their cubical because “I can’t concentrate without the TV.”  Music played quietly (not burst your eardrums loud) is okay in my opinion.  There have actually been studies that show that certain types of music help with studies.

Here’s a hot topic—let’s say “No” to cell phones.  Now I’m not talking all the time because I would go crazy without my Crackberry.  However, I was at a party a few months ago and one of the parents commented about the girls all texting each other when they were in the same room.  Another parent pointed out that even some parents are guilty of it and used me as an example.  Yes, I was sitting there checking email and Facebook.  Thanks, friend, I appreciate your honesty and I am now very conscious of when I need to put my phone away.

Cell phones have no place in school and I love that our school district has a ban on them.  I just wish the parents would step up and help enforce this.  No cell phones in school means I should not be seeing Facebook status updates during school hours.  I have a lot of kids on my Facebook and they know that Ms Dawn will say something if she seems them on during school hours.  But why am I parenting your child?  And why aren’t you one of their Facebook friends?  There’s the parent who said, “I want my daughter to be able to reach me if she needs me.”  I didn’t have a cell phone growing up and I was still able to reach my parents if I needed them.  See, there are these interesting things in the school office called telephones and if you are sick or need your lunch that you forgot, the office staff will let you use them to call your parents.  Actually, all the schools in our district have a telephone in each classroom.  Little Sally or Tommy don’t even have to walk to the office to use the phone.  Amazing, isn’t it?

Cell phones also have no place during homework time.  Exactly how can you focus on your homework when you are getting and sending text messages constantly?  You can’t.  And Facebook (or any other socializing) can wait until after homework is finished.  We weren’t allowed to play or talk on the phone with our friends (yes, it is possible to actually have a verbal conversation with a friend using a phone) until our homework was done.

So how are your child’s grades?  Not so good? Well then how saying “No” to the cell phone, computer, trips to friends’ houses, parties, dances, trips to the mall (for those of you with girls) until the grades come up?  Wait, you say, weren’t you just talking earlier about a need for balance between work and play?  Yes, and I still am.  But if your child is doing poorly in school, they should not be rewarded with “fun” activities.  They can stay home and read, play games or watch TV after they finish their homework.  This is especially true for teens.  In my experience, they will be motivated to get those grades up so they don’t miss out.  And when they get into the “real world (not the one on MTV), if they do poorly at their job, they won’t have the money to do anything “fun.”  For now, school is their job and they need to do it to the best of their ability.

I could go on and on about areas that I feel we need to say “No” to our children.  Say “No” to staying up late on a school night (on a regular basis).  Say “No” to cooking them something different if they don’t like what’s for dinner.  You get the idea.  So learn to say “No.”  Say it loud, say it proud.  It’s what’s best for you AND your entire family.

October 3, 2010

People Who Should Not Parent and the Children Who Suffer for It

Filed under: Life,Parenting — my3daughters @ 9:03 pm

When you have children, you give up the right to put yourself and your needs and wants first.  If you are not willing to do this, don’t have children.

This blog has been building for quite some time.  I wanted to wait until I could be fairly calm before I wrote this.

I am far from being a perfect parent.  But at least I try.  And I care.  That’s more than I can say for some people.  Let me give you at least a few examples (I’m using initials to protect the not so innocent).

N.E. has a beautiful two year old child.  N.E. gets up in the morning and heads off to work, leaving her husband to get the two year old up, dressed and dropped off at the sitters on his way to work.  N.E. is done with work by 3:30 pm but doesn’t pick her child until 5:30 pm because that’s the latest the sitter will watch anyone.  Evenings and weekends, N.E. leaves the toddler with her husband, or more commonly with one of her step-daughters.  N.E. got to have a normal, baby-free life when she was in high school and college but doesn’t feel that her step-daughters deserve the same consideration.  Why did N.E. have a child if she is not going to spend time with that child?

A.E. is a divorced mother.  A.E. spends almost every weekend out on the town with her friends.  While I understand needing time to yourself, take it while the children are with your ex-husband.  The weekends they are with you, spend time with them.  And for pete’s sake, pick them up on time.  Yes, I’m remembering the time I ran into you and you very calmly told me you had picked them up from their father’s almost two hours late because you were getting ready to go out.

E.E. is a divorced dad with teenagers.  He shares custody with his ex-wife.  When the teens are with their mother, he does not attend any of their events.  When they are with him, they are responsible for the majority of the household chores including cutting the lawn in the summer, shoveling the snow in the winter, doing the laundry and cleaning the house.  While I understand that everyone should contribute to the maintenance of the home where they live, this is going too far.  Lead by example, dad.  Do your share of the work.

H.Y. has a child who worked very hard to get accepted at a good college.  This child worked while in high school and continues to work in college.  H.Y. refuses to contribute to any part of the college expenses, stating that they “can’t afford it.”  My reply to that is, “you could afford it if you quit smoking and sucking down tons of pop every day.”  This child is a good student and is at a school less than two hours away from home.  H.Y. will not even drive to bring the child home for a weekend.  Heck, H.Y. couldn’t be bothered to take the child for orientation.  An older sibling had to do it.

Speaking of college-aged children who get squat from their parents, let me just mention Y.E.  Her parents are divorced.  Dad has remarried, Mom has not.  Mom makes enough to cover her bills with very little left over.  She is unable to help Y.E. financially but does what she can in other ways to give her daughter as much support as possible during her college years.  Dad, on the other hand, doesn’t help Y.E. out with any of her expenses or anything else for that matter.  “I can’t afford it” he says.  Yet his wife is taking classes towards her Masters Degree.  Y.E. is trying to earn her Bachelors Degree so that she can get something better than a minimum wage job and support herself.  Dad’s wife has a decent job and a Bachelors Degree.  Would it kill her to wait two more years to start on her Masters so that they can help Y.E. pay for her Bachelors?  Guess so.

I just recently met A.N.  She was divorced soon after her youngest was born.  She actually bragged to me that her ex was “dumb enough” to think that having the kids for three weekends out of the month meant he would pay less child support.  She didn’t care because it was “more time for me.”  You’ve got to be kidding me, right?

I could go on and on and on.  There are the parents who don’t take their child to the dentist, the doctor, get them extra school help, whatever because it’s just too much of a hassle and a bother and an expense.  Seriously, parenting is a 24/7 commitment.  If making sure your child has what they need means you go without, then you go without.  It is your responsibility as a parent to give your child everything they need to succeed in life.  I’m not talking just financially here.  Heck, if parents were graded on how much they spent on their kids, I would fail.  I just can’t afford it.  But I can teach my children to be responsible, to care about others, to live within their means.  I can be there to support them in everything they do.

Since I believe that life is all about balance, let me finish up by telling you about just a few of the fantastic parents I know.  I could spend hours and not touch on all of them.  Thankfully, they are the majority.  Again, I’m using initials here, this time to protect the innocent who did not asked to be drawn into my rant.

A.R. is awesome.  I wanna be her when I grow up.  She bakes, sews, and takes her kids on all kinds of adventures both big and small.  She makes every day an adventure.  Until I read her blog, I had no idea you could make homemade marshmallows.  And she has four, count them, four children.  Her husband, L.R. is an equally awesome dad.

L.S. is a single mom.  Dad isn’t in the picture at all.  L.S. works two jobs to make ends meet and still finds time to spend with her son.  He is a very well behaved young man and I guarantee all the teachers at elementary school love him.  I’m not saying he’s not all boy because he is.  I just know that he is going to be someone very special when he grows up because his mom has taught him to be caring and thoughtful.

E.L. and A.A. are sisters.  The both scored excellent hubbies in R.L. and D.A.  These two sets of parents know how to make life special for their children.  I mention them together because they not only do things as individual families, they do a lot of stuff together.  So they are teaching their children the value of extended family.

N.H. and H.H. are very special parents.  So far they have one very precious two-year-old.  Yep, they’ve hit those terrible twos.  They handle it very well, working together to make those twos terrific instead of terrible.

Finally we have A.K. & H.K.  Both of these parents work full-time jobs.  Yet they make time for their children.  Ball games, parades, trips to the cider mills, outings with extended family.  Their children know they are loved and appreciated and wanted.

If you break my code, you will probably figure out who at least some of these people are.  Even if you can’t break my code, if you know me, you have heard me rant on this before.  And there are other parents out there that I haven’t mentioned.  While it’s hard to see these selfish, self-centered parents ignore their children, those who are over-protective or over-indulgent do their own kind of damage.

Hug your kids before you go to bed tonight, or if they don’t live with you anymore, call them and just say “I love you.”  And when you run into those kids whose parents don’t give a rat’s ass about them, share some of your love with them.  All of the children I mentioned in the first part are fortunate in that they have an older sibling, parent or other adults in their life who DO care about them.  It’s not the same but it’s better than nothing.  Some have nothing.  Be the something, the somebody they need.

May 16, 2010

Something to Look Forward To

Filed under: Life,Parenting — my3daughters @ 6:33 pm

I grew up south of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  A day at the amusement park meant one thing—Kennywood!  The last ride was always the merry-go-round.  But what to ride first?  When I was younger it was off to Kiddie Land, but as I grew taller, the entire park began to open up.  Each ride had a sign where you had to be so tall to ride.  This was for safety reasons, of course.  I could stand really tall, but if I didn’t make it, I had to wait until next year.  Did I always agree?  NO.  I wanted to go on that ride NOW.  But, rules were rules, and I had to wait.  I survived.  Plus, it gave me something to look forward to.

Life is like that.  Sometimes you just aren’t tall enough or old enough or have enough money to do something.  You have to wait.  But you survive.  Plus it gives you something to look forward to.

Parents, let me ask you this—do you allow your teenager to drive regularly before they have their permit?  Do you allow your child to drink regularly before they turn 21?  No?  Why not?  Ah, because those are the rules and the rules should be followed.

Well, then why do you allow your child to go on Facebook before they are 13?  That’s a rule.  Why shouldn’t it be followed? 

“Facebook is harmless.”  “They just like to play the games.”  Oh wake up!  The rules are there for a reason, just like the ride height requirement, the driving age, the drinking age and a lot of other rules.  We don’t always agree with the rules but they need to be followed. 

Now, I’m not suggesting that you join the Sheeple in mindless obedience.  If you don’t agree with a rule, there are ways to attempt to change it.  Ignoring the rule is not one of those ways.

Breaking rules generally brings negative consequences.  How many of you have ever gotten at least one speeding ticket?  Come on, fess up.  And when you do, saying “well, officer, I feel that the speed limit here should be higher” is not going to work.  The officer will most likely reply, “Too bad, so sad, here’s your ticket, have a nice day.”

“Oh, but there are no negative consequences to allowing my child to go on Facebook before they are 13,” you say.  Really?  Is Facebook as harmless and safe as you think?  The experts don’t think so. 

“What they think is nothing can actually be pretty serious,” says Charles Pavelites, a supervisory special agent at the Internet Crime Complaint Center. (from the article 7 Things to Stop Doing Now on Facebook by Consumer Reports Magazine, http://finance.yahoo.com/family-home/article/109538/7-things-to-stop-doing-now-on-facebook). 

 Now, to be completely honest, the “they” Mr. Pavelites is referring to is young children, but his quote applies to adults as well.  He suggests that “If you have a young child or teenager on Facebook, the best way to provide oversight is to become one of their online friends.”  I know of several young children under the age of 13 who have Facebook accounts and their parents are not on Facebook.  I know because I’ve looked for them.

Let’s bring this a little closer to home, shall we?  Do you have rules in your house?  We do.  And different houses have different rules.  Maybe they are as simple as the ones found on signs & posters:

If it’s open—CLOSE IT

If it’s on the floor—PICK IT UP

If it’s dirty—CLEAN IT

If it’s hungry—FEED IT

If it’s sad—LOVE IT

 Maybe they are more detailed.  But they are there, they are there for a reason and we want our children to follow them.  What happens when they break a house rule, say they come in after curfew?  They probably say, “But Mom/Dad, I think my curfew should be later.”  To which you reply, “Too bad, so sad, you’re grounded, have a nice day.”  You don’t allow them to pick and choose which house rules they get to follow.  We as parents can’t just pick and choose which rules to follow.  When you pick and choose what rules to follow you are leading by example—bad example.  Parenting by the Do as I Say Not as I Do rule is going to backfire on you. 

At one time or another (and maybe on more than one occasion), our children come to us (as we went to our parents) and ask to do something only to be told, “No.”  Often they reply (as we did), “Everyone else is doing it.”  What is our response?  Come on, check your parenting handbook.  We say (as our parents did), “If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you?”  (this may be followed by a head slap and a shudder as we think—“Oh my goodness, I sound like my Mom/Dad!”)

This is a stock reply for a reason.  It’s not safe to jump off a bridge.  It’s not smart to do something just because all the other Shepple are doing it.  We want our children to think and to act and to be their own person.  We also want them to be safe.

How do these children get a Facebook account if they are under 13?  They have to LIE about their age.  Oh yeah, let’s teach kids that it’s OK to lie.  What do you think is going to happen?  They are going to lie to you somewhere down the road.  Let’s be honest–they are probably going to do this anyway but it’s always good to not encourage it.  Lying was not permitted in my house, yet I lied to my parents.  I can also attest to the fact that there is a very good chance you will be caught in that lie.  I still remember the time I went to the mall and then to the soccer game of this guy I thought was cute.  My parents thought I was at my friend’s house studying.   On the way to the game from the mall, my muffler came off my car.  One of the dads at the game helped me fix my car so I could get home but it was understood that if I didn’t tell my parents, he would.  Busted!

So when your under 13-year-old child wants to create a Facebook account NOW (or you find out they already have), don’t just say “No.”  Explain to them that rules are rules, and they have to wait.  They will survive.  Plus, it gives them something to look forward to.  If they think it’s a stupid rule, now is the perfect time to talk to them about the ways to attempt to change rules.  Ah hah, Life Lesson Time, always a good thing.  Taking Time to Openly Communicate with Your Child is also a good thing.

If you’ve already allowed your under 13-year-old child to create a Facebook account but now you’re having second thoughts, it’s time to swallow your pride and say, “I made a mistake.”  Too often as parents we think that we have to present a perfect front to our children.  Try that and watch them laugh.  They know we aren’t perfect.  In my experience, admitting this has been a good thing.  So, sit down with them, explain your mistake and why you are changing your stand on this.  Again, Taking Time to Openly Communicate with Your Child is a good thing.

If you still feel that the age limit is too high on Facebook and your child agrees (trust me they do), why don’t you brainstorm together ways to go about changing it?  Who knows, you might succeed.  You’ll never know until you try.  What if Henry Ford would have thought of the car but then never tried to make one because he thought he would fail?  What do you have to lose?  Some time, but then, time spent with your child is never a waste.  Give it a go.  Keep in mind, though, that you are also teaching them how to approach you when they feel that one of your rules needs to be changed. 

If your child really just likes to play the games—let them play on your account.  Sometimes Gillian’s chores include Farmville ones.  Again, it’s something you can share with your child.

One last caution—even if your child is over 13, you need to monitor their Facebook account.  Keep an eye on their friends list and their activities.  Sometimes the things they post or the groups they join seem harmless to them.  They are children and they need a parent (or other adult) guiding them.  Encourage them to become Facebook friends with other adults you can trust and ask those adults to help you keep an eye on their FB activities.  In today’s world, it really does take a village to raise a child.  Just ask the girls at our church.  They will tell you that Ms Dawn (along with other adults in the church) let them know when they are doing something unwise.  We do it out of love.

Being a good parent has never been an easy task.  Today’s society makes it even more difficult.  But anything worth having is worth the effort.  Having children who grow into happy, healthy, responsible adults is worth the effort now.  Teaching your children to follow the rules, to be honest and to learn to wait can be hard.  But if they don’t learn these lessons, its going to be even harder to watch them struggle financially because they didn’t learn to wait, to see them fail in relationships because they didn’t value honesty, or have to go visit them in jail because they didn’t think they had to follow the rules. 

Parenting comes with no guarantees.  Those things may still happen.  At the end of the day, all you can hope for is that your children will stand up at your funeral and say, “I know I was loved, not because my Mom/Dad let me do whatever I want but because they did what was best for me.”  Hang in there.  I’m told it gets better.  I guess that’s something to look forward to.

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